Science Quiets Myth of 'Chatterbox' Females

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By E.J. Mundell
HealthDay Reporter
Thursday, July 5, 2007; 12:00 AM

THURSDAY, July 5 (HealthDay News) -- New research finding men and women speak roughly the same number of words each day is likely to get both sexes talking, experts say.

Researchers recorded the daily conversations of 400 university students in the United States and Mexico over a period of several days. They found that females spoke about 16,215 words each day, and males uttered an average of 15,669 words, which was considered a statistical dead heat.

"So, counter to stereotypes, there doesn't seem to be evidence that males and females talk at different rates, at least among college students," said study author James Pennebaker, the psychology department chairman at the University of Texas at Austin.

His team published the findings in the July 6 issue ofScience.

Well-worn clichs about women being chatterboxes all stem from the same cultural notion -- that they love talking much more than men, experts said..

But there has never been any scientific proof to back up that stereotype, said Marianne LaFrance, a professor of psychology and women's gender and sexuality studies at Yale University.

In her own and others' work, LaFrance noted, "the research is consistently showing either no sex differences in the amount that men and women talk, or if thereisa difference, then it depends on the context. For example, in a professional context, men actually outspeak women by a long shot."

That's why behavioral psychologists won't be overly surprised by theSciencefindings, added LaFrance, who was not involved in this research. "What's novel here isn't the findings but rather the methodology," she said..

Because of recent advances in technology, Pennebaker's group was able to design a cell phone-sized recording device that the study participants could carry in a pocket while their everyday conversations were taped by a mike clipped to their lapel. The participants quickly forgot they were wearing the recorder, Pennebaker said, and "after the first couple of hours, people rarely made mention of the device."

And unlike prior studies, where participants had some control over when and where the recorder was switched on, the device used in the new study automatically clicked on every 12 minutes to record whatever was being said -- or not said -- for the next 30 seconds.

The 19- to 25-year-olds in the study wore the voice recorders for several days each.

The result: Pennebaker's team foundnogender difference whatsoever in the amount of talking done each day by these young men and women.


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